VILNIUS - The new Ministry of Energy is due to open its doors in the beginning of February. The controversial decision to add a new ministry is part of the government's anti-crisis plan.
Energy-related departments from the Ministry of Economy will form the main body of the new ministry.
"The ministry will represent energy consumers' interests, not energy companies, as it [has been] until now. We think that both business and energy sectors are very important for the country, therefore we need to pay them the attention they need," said Vita Ramanauskaite, a public relations advisor to the Minister for Economy.
Other key roles of the Ministry of Energy will be strengthening the security of Lithuania in the energy sector, as well as achieving European Commission's strategic goals in energy for 2020 's increasing energy consumption efficiency and energy production by 20 percent. It will also be responsible for reducing toxic gas emissions into the atmosphere by 20 percent.
However, Lithuanian Free Market Institute Senior Policy Analyst Giedrius Kadziauskas said that there is no reason to establish the Ministry of Energy. He also said political quality will neither increase nor decrease and the Ministry of Economy alone can work as effectively as the government expects the two separate ministries would.
"It is the government's idea to show the nation they are taking their job seriously. To a certain point it is a public relations thing," Kadziauskas said.
President Valdas Adamkus signed the Law on the Establishment of the Ministry of Energy, despite previously saying he was not convinced that the new ministry is really necessary.
"The president has made this decision as he believes Lithuania needs to have a separate institution responsible for energy policy in the face of current energy security challenges," the press service of President Valdas Adamkus said.
"The cabinet, and Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in person, has assured the president that the new body is to be established by using the resources of the Ministry of Economy and will not require more spending and will not create an additional bureaucratic apparatus."
The Seimas [Lithuanian parliament] divided more than 15 million litas to support two ministries, with more than two million going to the Energy Ministry. Out of 264 full time positions, 47 would go to the new ministry.
"Establishing a Ministry of Energy will cost nothing to the state," Ramanauskaite said.
She also said that the Ministry of Economy should be an advocate for the business. Currently two-thirds of the ministry's work is focused on energy. President Adamkus also hopes that reforming the ministry will meet expectations for increased work efficiency.
"I hope the Ministry of Economy will, first and foremost, direct its efforts at promoting business sunrise rather than merely discussing it as it was up to now, and will ease the bureaucratic and administrative burden for business which is particularly heavy for small businesses and restricts their initiatives," Adamkus said in a press release.
As the Ministry of Energy will be specifically targeted at helping the country's energy sector, many energy specialists hope that their voices will become louder and their problems solved faster.
"We hope that new ministry will have a department of renewable energy. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any signs from the government to pay any more attention to renewable energy when the new ministry is established. The current Ministry of Economy doesn't have such a department either," said Aleksandras Paulauskas, the director of Lithuanian Wind Energy Association.
"Everyone talks about the LEO LT project, so it looks like establishing the new ministry is all about one party taking over the project from another. Still, we hope that maybe the new ministry will help the renewable energy sector move forward, as it is forgotten now 's unlike in other European Union countries," he told The Baltic Times.
Arvydas Sekmokas, a member of the ruling Homeland Union 's Lithuanian Christian Democrats, is the only candidate for the minister's portfolio.